AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2021 Event In Review

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the world we live in and how the UAV industry connects.

Conferences are great places to network, investigate new technologies, and hear from recognized experts in various sectors of the drone industry.

Unfortunately, during 2020 many of the annual conferences for the drone community were canceled or postponed.

Virtual conferences became the norm, as everybody made the best out of a difficult situation.

The AUVSI’s XPONTENTIAL 2021 conference brings the implementation of a hybrid event model. A virtual component took place May 4-6, reconvening as a live event August 16-19 in Atlanta.

With “Assured Autonomy” as the theme for the AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2021, the convention aims to bring attention to the drone industry’s current position during a critical juncture in implementing unmanned systems.

Autonomy and American Robotics

This year began with the FAA and policymakers becoming more comfortable with drones taking on an ever-more autonomous role.

Paving the way for full autonomy is American Robotics. On January 14, 2021, the Massachusetts-based company became the first organization approved to operate drones without a pilot or other on-site operator.


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This is the just beginning of what many believe is the key to tapping into the full potential of drone technology.

Each day of the virtual conference began with a keynote session, with topics all relating to the assured autonomy theme.

Distinguished speakers included Dr. Robert Hampshire (Chief Science Officer for the United States Department of Transportation), Adam Bry (CEO of Skydio), Brian Wynne (President and CEO of AUVSI), and Congressman Garret Graves of Louisiana, just to name a few. Each day’s discussions started the morning off with fresh insight on how innovation – coupled with a stable regulatory framework — will lead to an expanded drone ecosystem.

AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2021: More than a Webinar

AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2021 included several features that made the event much more than just a glorified webinar. Networking tools allowed participants to connect and collaborate through an easy-to-use messaging system.

Not only that, but a useful buyer’s guide allowed attendees to filter through the extensive exhibitor’s list. This made it quick and easy to find the products they were interested in researching or purchasing.

The XPO Hall featured a user-friendly search engine, helping attendees find specific vendors and exhibitors they wished to speak with.

During the XPO Hall‘s open hours, visitors could speak with a given vendor’s staff and review provided photos and documents. They could even explore a demo room featuring the products or services the vendor offered.

Programming the Presentations

For many attendees, the best features of conferences like AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2021, are the educational classes and discussions making up the bulk of the conference schedule.

AUVSI assembled a wonderful mix of experts and professionals for the virtual three-day event. To make selecting the best presentations easier, XPONENTIAL recommended targeted education program tracks. These organized the breakout sessions into relevant groupings.

Program tracks included ecosystem integration, technology & autonomous infrastructure, and policy & governance.

These presentations provided something for everyone in the drone industry. Some of the diverse topics included Bomb Investigation With sUAS, Weather and Emergency Drone Operations, Machine Learning and Autonomous Collision Avoidance, and The Path to Scalable Drone Delivery Operations.

Highlight the Good

Two particularly interesting topics showcased the positive roles drones play outside direct commercial applications.

Drone Lives Saved, presented by the Director of Public Safety at DJI, Wayne Baker, delivered examples of actual cases where drones actively and passively saved lives.

The second session, Saving Lives With Emergency Drone Deliveries, featured Christine Griffin of Deloitte, Harrison Wolf of Zipline International, and Mats Sällström of Everdrone AB.

The inspiring discussion demonstrated how drones deliver life-saving equipment and supplies to rural and urban environments around the world.

A Job Well Done

The team from AUVSI put together a wonderfully executed virtual event. Recordings of all sessions will be available to attendees for the next few months; a great feature for those wanting more.

The information was timely, and there is no doubt those in attendance walked away with an expanded knowledge of the industry’s current state, as well as future possibilities.

The live event in August will include additional keynote speakers, educational sessions, and an XPO Hall that to date, has nearly 400 exhibitors.

If you missed the virtual event, don’t miss the opportunity for the in-person experience later this year.

Picture of David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

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